By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Focusing on sleep by using sleep trackers could be exacerbating problems, NPR reported. Worrying about adhering to proper sleep schedules with wearable tech is a problem all its own. Proper sleep hygiene could help.
According to NPR, the popularity of wearable sleep trackers has caused an unexpected side effect. While these wristbands, necklaces, and other gadgets track and transmit data about our sleeping habits to our smartphones for our own review, that data is often interpreted as a “sleep score.” However, that data may be leading to an unhealthy obsession over getting enough hours of sleep or ensuring that we doze off and wake up in a certain time frame.
“In an irony of our digital lifestyles, for some people, perfecting that sleep score becomes an end unto itself—so much so that they can lose sleep over it,” the article said. If sleep trackers are hindering your sleep schedule instead of helping it, there are methods to provide a course correction for catching your ZZZ’s.
Principles of Sleep Hygiene
While several pharmaceutical options exist for getting sleep, Americans are becoming understandably wary of taking drugs for everything. This is where sleep hygiene comes in.
“Good sleep hygiene involves simple and straightforward common sense practices that are good for everyone,” said Dr. H. Craig Heller, the Lorry I. Lokey/Business Wire Professor of Biological Sciences and Human Biology at Stanford University. “But it’s important to follow these practices religiously and not just when it is convenient. An important advantage is that you don’t even need a physician for these practices.”
Sleep hygiene has several principles, Dr. Heller said. The first is keeping a regular schedule of sleep and awakening every day, including weekends. Consistency will help train your body to at least expect sleep between certain hours.
Second, he said, don’t oversleep. Make sure that you only sleep as long as needed to feel rested. Also, a key practice is trying to associate bedtime with sleeping. Going hand in hand with this, the third principle is to avoid forcing yourself to start sleeping. If you start viewing sleep as a chore, it’s liable to increase your unease or anxiety about falling asleep “on-time.”
The fourth principle of sleep hygiene is to make sure your sleeping environment is healthy. Keep it quiet, comfortable, relaxing, and just the right temperature.
“Fifth are lifestyle issues that are also common sense,” Dr. Heller said. “Exercise regularly at least 20 minutes per day, do not consume caffeinated beverages from the mid-afternoon on. Most important, do not take your worries to bed with you.”
Practicing Sleep Hygiene
These five principles of good sleep hygiene may seem much easier said than done, but there is a simple way to implement them into your life.
“The first step is to set one end of the desired sleep schedule—time of awakening—and enforce that time even if you have to get five alarm clocks,” Dr. Heller said. “The second step is to wait until you feel sleepy to go to bed. As a result, you may not get enough sleep that first night to have good daytime alertness the next day, but that should result in your feeling sleepy a bit earlier the next night; and gradually, you will arrive at the optimal bedtime for a fixed schedule that leaves you alert and not sleepy all day long.”
These two steps should create a domino effect for the remaining principles of sleep hygiene. Sticking to a regular schedule, even if it means waking up tired the first several days, will help your body align being tired with your set bedtime. You won’t have to force yourself to sleep. If you pair this with a proper environment and common sense lifestyles, your sleep hygiene should improve quickly.
Dr. H. Craig Heller contributed to this article. Dr. Heller is the Lorry I. Lokey/Business Wire Professor of Biological Sciences and Human Biology at Stanford University. He earned his Ph.D. in Biology from Yale University.